Y: The Last Man
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Based on the popular DC comic book by Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra, Y: The Last Man follows the stories of a handful of survivors in the aftermath of a plague that kills every person on the planet with a Y chromosome…except one.
Diane Lane (Let Him Go, Justice League), Ashley Romans (NOS4a2), Ben Schnetzer (The Giant), Olivia Thirlby (Juno), Marin Ireland (Umbrella Academy), Amber Tamblyn (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), Elliot Fletcher (Shameless). Produced by Melina Matsoukas (Queen and Slim).
This is going to sound weird, but if you’re going to release a TV series set in post-apocalyptic times, this is the right time to do it, because we have all been there. We’re still there. Some might find it triggering. But as the story in Y: The Last Men unfolded, I found myself nodding along, because it looks and feels very familiar—a grief-ridden world shouldering through because there’s no other choice. The 360-degree range of reactions to a universal disaster. The terrifying realization that just because your government is “in charge” that doesn’t mean they know what to do. Everyone is winging it, everyone is terrified, pointing fingers, formulating conspiracies, clinging to their personal agendas, to whatever power they can hold on to. The series was filmed in 2018, and while watching the first four episodes I kept thinking, “Wow, how did you guess?”
All of the writers and directors on the show are women, and this brings the female gaze into the show in full force. They ground the story in humanity and truth—everyone may be grieving and in shock, but they’re also faced with the logistical consequences of a patriarchal society. This country’s supply lines are run by trucks, and 95 percent of the drivers and the crew are men. As is the military, airline pilots, air traffic controllers, the people in charge of water and power, hospital staff, etc. Bodies and cars are clogging up streets and buildings, turning into toxic waste. It’s horrible and overwhelming everywhere and anywhere you look. Women aren’t given the choice to take over, they have to. They have to step up for themselves, their families and their country; it’s the only way they’re going to survive. Not everyone is so nice about it.
The woman who finds herself in charge of figuring it out is congresswoman Jennifer Brown (Lane). As the highest ranking survivor in the chain of command, she becomes the de facto president. With her grown daughter possibly trapped in Manhattan, she sends a special agent (Romans) to find her and bring her safely to D.C. Instead, Agent 355 finds the president’s son, Yorick (a Hamlet reference courtesy of his father, who was a Shakespearean scholar), who might just be the last living man on Earth.
Hearing this, Yorick freaks out. He’s self-aware enough to realize that he’s not up to that responsibility and he is so, so right. He’s not a bad man, but he’s selfish, flippant, the epitome of an over-privileged 20-something white man who’s been catered to his whole life. He refuses to acknowledge the gravity of the situation, even when his mother sends him away again under the protection of Agent 355 to meet a genetic researcher in Massachusetts. All he wants to do is find his girlfriend, who walked out on him after he proposed. It’s an interesting take that the last man on earth is so utterly useless, and has to be dragged whining and screaming to do the right thing. Schnetzer manages to not make you hate him, and maybe sympathize with him a little bit, but most of the sympathy goes to everyone who has to deal with him.
The show also gives us other perspectives closer to the ground, including the president’s daughter, Hero (Thirlby), a mess of survivor’s guilt and train-wreck impulses, who is heading to D.C. on foot with her best friend Sam (Fletcher), a trans man. Sam has to fight hard for his identity as a man in the new world, as the universe bitch slaps him and laughs in his face. There’s also former press secretary Nora Brady (Ireland), who’s just trying to survive with her daughter in the aftermath. And the former president’s conservative daughter Kim (Tamblyn), a constant thorn in President Brown’s side despite having no official role or title.
What I loved is that all of these characters, and their storylines, go much deeper than you’d expect. None of them deserve this, or what happens after, and you have to empathize.
Y: The Last Man is a captivating, possibly triggering story, from the first minute, when you start counting the men who are about to die and caring about the women who love them. Strong storylines, characters, and acting make this a great binge now, or a must-see every week.
Your favorite sci-fi, post-apocalypse story loving adult. No kids, though, this show is all graphic deaths and dead bodies, and will probably induce nightmares. I mean, I’ve already had one, and I’m grown.
Ashley Romans (who is fantastic in this series) also starred in a fan-created series called Hermione Granger and the Quarterlife Crisis. I don’t know about you, but I know what I’m watching next.